Kenny Barron has been a respected jazz pianist since the early '60s, but it wasn't until the mid-'70s that he began coming into his own as a composer; deftly working complex time signatures and mercurial melodies into seamlessly swinging numbers, agile sambas, and lovely ballads. Fifteen years on, Invitation finds Barron in full maturity as a writer and in the sympathetic company of tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, bassist David Williams, and drummer Lewis Nash. Barron's democratic pen runs the gamut here as he distills Monk's angular jubilance on "And Then Again," produces one of his most beautiful ballads in "Dewdrop," and works a fine bossa nova groove on "Joanne Julia." The covers are no less impressive. Barron and the group swing solid and fleet on Bronislaw Kaper's caustically subdued "Invitation" and place John Lewis' "Parisian Afternoon" in a gently swinging light. "You Don't Know What Love Is" is read solo by Barron with mysterious aplomb, and "Blue Monk" gets a strong blues reading. Throughout, Ralph Moore's choice tenor lines glide over the notes, Lewis Nash's tasteful drumming impressively anchors the group, and Barron's inventive solos ride atop the band in full stride. With great material, solid playing, and the full Criss Cross sound, Invitation ends up as one of Kenny Barron's finest outings of the 1990s.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook